Saturday, December 15, 2007

If Every Day Was Just Like Christmas

Every Christmas, I drag out my Elvis Christmas record/tape/CD - depending on the decade - and listen to it over and over and over again. It's the only Christmas record - other than Disco Duck Christmas - my family owned. In fact, in general, my family didn't play records, probably because my dad was always singing and playing his guitar when he was home and my mom enjoyed the quiet when he was gone.

It sounds great - very Mayberry - to have a dad who sings and plays guitar. And it was cool - I love my memories of Dad sitting on the front porch after dark, playing still songs to the stars.

But it's also kinda annoying, especially if you want to have a conversation with the man, or ask him to play with you or any of the other things kids want from parents.

But I love that Elvis record. Absolutely love it.

In the title track, "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," Elvis ponders why we can't be nice and love each other throughout the year. Over the years, I've had different relationships with this question. I use to cry about it and think, "Yeah, it should be like Christmas all year - we should give people gifts and all that!"

Then it just seemed naive and trite.

Now, I'm rethinking it again after reading this Psychology Today article, "Surviving Holiday Hell."

I wrote about it last year, and decided to revisit it to see if there were any ideas for breaking negative traditions and creating new ones. As it turns out, the piece does offer advice about that, noting that when traditions become, essentially, dogmatic, no one enjoys them. They just soullessly go through the ritual - which is why it's a good idea to shake things up, particularly as life stages change.

For instance, if you've had the same Christmas morning ritual since your children were little, and now they're all teens, well, you should reexamine that ritual. It's probably no longer fun.

The article closes with this advice from some expert mentioned in the piece:
Better, he says, if we treat the rest of the year as if it were Christmas. And treat Christmas as if it were an ordeal. Cancel the big show. Don't bother smearing pate on the beef. Simply feed and nurture each other. Then no one will be disappointed.

I added the italics, because it really stood out to me as a way to rescue a holiday which, frankly, mostly feels like drudgery.

And I realized that part of the reason Christmas has been hard, too, is because we don't treat ourselves well during the rest of the year and it all comes to a head with the added stress of Christmas. In other words - we just notice at Christmas because all the bad stuff happens at the same time.

An example:
You have a problem saying no - to work, to your mother, to your mother-in-law and to your friends. All year, you're under a low-grade stress because of this, but generally, they don't all come calling at once and you manage. But at Christmas, they all put demands on you. And it's too much so you crack. "Enough!" You yell. "Why is Christmas so miserable?!?"

Well, clearly, if you'd had some boundaries in place and said no to some people all year, you wouldn't be under so much pressure now. Because they'd all know better and be used to your boundaries, plus you'd have a year of practice in for saying no.

You can apply this to just about any problem that 'seems' to be an issue at Christmas: Weight problems and overeating; overspending; poor organizational skills; an inability to delegate; poor household management - all come to a head during the holidays because you've added a deadline - Christmas - and pressed all the pressure points at once.

So: What if, next year, everyday were just like Christmas in that you nurtured yourself and your family - ahead of everyone else? My guess is, by the time Christmas did come around, you'd:
a. Know how to take care of yourself and your family so that
b. You'd be able to give more joyfully and
c. You'd know when to stop giving and start saying no.

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